Football: Gray puts Hammers on spot

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Luton Town . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

West Ham United. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

WEST HAM lost their place in the queue for promotion to the Premier League and possibly also their captain, Julian Dicks, to suspension in a frantic finale at Kenilworth Road last night.

Dicks was fortunate that when he handled Kerry Dixon's shot on the line eight minutes from time, the referee, Gurnam Singh, showed him a yellow card rather than a red one. Phil Gray gave Luton the lead from the spot after a two-minute delay during which the referee spoke to Luton's manager, David Pleat. In the 89th minute the substitute, Martin Williams, speeding on to a return pass from Gray, added Luton's second goal, his first in the League.

Dicks must hope that the Football Association agrees with West Ham's calculation that he went into last night's match on 37 disciplinary points and not 40. The higher figure would mean the full-back missing the promotion run-in.

Thoughts of leaving the First Division behind come May were uppermost in Luton minds, too, as they are involved in a familiar struggle to avoid relegation. These days, though, the Second Division is an even less inviting prospect. Yet, on last night's evidence, there is not two divisions between the two sides.

The watery surface made the early stages messy and for an hour few moves were completed. Chris Kamara should have put Luton ahead in the second minute and Martin Allen might have done likewise for West Ham before the interval.

Ludek Miklosko's first-half uncertainty on leaving his line gave Kamara his chance, but after the interval West Ham's Czech goalkeeper was splendid. Within 10 minutes of the restart he had sprawled to deny Gray and parried a Julian James shot at full stretch. Later, he was to deny Gray again.

His opposite number, Alec Chamberlain, was his equal, gathering every threatening cross. His best moments came when he parried a fierce follow- up shot from Dicks moments before the West Ham defender imitated him to concede the penalty. He then flung himself to deny Tony Gale an equaliser as West Ham charged forward from the restart.

According to Pleat, Luton can breath more easily now they are 'six points above par', with 48 from 42 games. Unlike West Ham, they have no second chance. The Londoners might need theirs in the play-offs.

Luton Town: Chamberlain; Dreyer, Telfer (Williams, 73), Johnson, James, Peake, Hughes (Oakes, 73), Kamara, Dixon, Gray, Preece.

West Ham United: Miklosko; Breacker, Dicks, Potts, Gale, Bishop, M Allen (Holmes, 80), Butler, Speedie, Morley, Keen. Substitute not used: Foster.

Referee: G Singh (Wolverhampton).

----------------------------------------------------------------- FIRST DIVISION TOP SIX ----------------------------------------------------------------- P W D L F A Pts Newcastle . . . . . . . . . .41 24 9 8 78 35 81 Portsmouth. . . . . . . . . .42 23 10 9 74 41 79 West Ham. . . . . . . . . . .42 22 10 10 70 39 76 Swindon . . . . . . . . . . .42 21 11 10 71 53 74 Tranmere. . . . . . . . . . .41 20 8 13 65 53 68 Leicester . . . . . . . . . .40 20 8 12 62 52 68 -----------------------------------------------------------------

Comments